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Sunday 3 March 2013

Town Green in Willesden Green

I am told that the report on a possible Town Green in front of Willesden Green Library Centre will take longer than anticipated.  There has always been a suspicion that the entire request is merely vexatious, and an attempt to delay the rebuild of Willesden Green Library Centre.  Certainly, the accounts I have heard of some of the testimony given at the enquiry would cohere with that notion.


The history of this post is an odd one.  When published it attracted little attention.  Then on Friday 8 March it suddenly started to get lots of views and comments.  The comments have two main concerns. One is to rehash the planning issues.  The Planning Committee made its decision, which I thought sensible, so I am not going to go over it again.  The second is the suspicion that many of the objectors are just trying use a legal technicality to delay things.  I have certainly heard that suspicion voiced by various people.  Anyone who believes in freedom of speech should not object to it being mentioned just because they disagree.


A commentator has correctly pointed out that I did not publish his post, although I published all the others.  This is so.  The reason is that I considered that the post contained a libel.


Martin R said...

Dear James Powney,

The word 'vexatious' in your blog above is clearly intended to be derogatory. However I am quite happy to agree that the Town Square procedure was commenced almost a year ago as a means to prevent Brent Council cynically donating public land to a private developer at the expense of the local Willesden Green Community. If you read the legislation (The Commons Act 2006) you will note that it has a long distinguished history going back many years. It was reinforced in 2006 specifically to protect ordinary citizens from landowners damaging local environments with inappropriate development schemes. The Registration Authority (Brent Council itself)had more than six months after the application was validated in April 2012 in which it could have 'determined' against the application - but it didn't. This demonstrates that a non-partisan department within Brent Council thought that there was an important case to be considered. They set up the Inquiry and they could have cancelled it at any point up to the start date of 11th February...but they didn't! Meanng that the proceedings are perfectly valid and lawful, not 'vexatious' Presumably, because you did not actually attend the hearing you really are relying on second hand accounts of what people said. You must not prejudge the issues, it is clear from the delay in receiving the Inspector's report that this is a serious business and must not be taken lightly. Perhaps you and your councillor colleagues should use the next few days in considering whether your ill judged and contentious private housing scheme with small overtowering library centre to be constructed on top of the only High Road open space is actually of real benefit to the people of Willesden Green.

Martin Redston (Town Square Applicant)

Anonymous said...

Given that your Executive committee wanted to rush through the WGCC project after consulting with only 12 members of the public, all of whom expressed opinions that you chose to ignore in your plans, it's difficult not to interpret your words as yet another example of petty bureaucrats paid from the public purse who care only for their self aggrandizement and nothing for the people who they are duty bound to represent. The voting public really are terribly vexatious, aren't they. If only we all just shut up and let you close our libraries, parcel off public land to private developers and siphon off public money into your own pet projects, how much easier your life would be!

Anonymous said...

There is nothing vexatious about the Town Square application. It was the only way that residents could react to the major changes proposed for the centre of Willesden.
The proposal to build on the only decent High Road Open space has left residents desperate to protect their environment. A large infrastrucure project, The WGCC, has been agreed between the Regeneration Team and Major Projects and a partnering developer without a neighbourhood plan or LDF in place.
The Coalition’s localism agenda will be tested in a direct and democratic way today, when the residents of seventeen parishes in Eden Valley Council in Cumbria vote in the first local referendum on the new neighbourhood plan for their community. Up to 4,265 people are eligible to vote. By contrast, in Willesden the WGCC consultation was attended by a target audience of 12, there was no intention to listen or hold a referendum to decide the future of our neighbourhood.
Cllr Powney, you appear to believe that Local opinion is not important in the planning process.
In most boroughs, the first step is to measure and understand local opinion, the next step is to shape it, so that early plans are shared, local comment is stimulated and feedback is acted upon, not ignored.
Too often a local campaign is set up due to fear of the unknown. This is understandable if accurate communication is not the priority from day one. If a neighbourhood Plan is agreed by local voters, it will guide developers in that area to submit planning applications in the future to take this into account, or expect refusal. Fairview's application for the Queensbury would have been a better process with a better understanding of local sensitivites had a neighbourhood plan been put in place.
It is extremely arrogant to assume that Brent can ignore residents desire to shape their own communities. We, after all, will be the people who are going to live and work here once the developers have gone home.
How do we ensure the Willesden neighbourhood is sustainable, so that what happens in the area today doesn’t compromise the needs of our families in the future? A neighbourhood plan should be used to decide what the Council should and should not give planning permission to, and to guide future investment in the area.
Your informants may not have told you that most of those who have spoken out against the WGCC plans have lived in the area for well over 15 years. Many of them have families who have been resident for 2 or 3 generations. Surely if they choose to speak out against a plan to take away the heart of their community in order to facilitate partnered private property development, then their views should be respected, not dismissed as vexatious.
Kate Spence - Keep Willesden Green.

Anonymous said...

It is surely up to the Inspector appointed by Brent Council, before whom the Public Enquiry into the Town Square application was held, to decide whether or not it was "vexatious". The fact that he is taking so long to deliver his verdict would seem to indicate that this is not his opinion. Clearly very irritating to Councillor Powney.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Powney

I note your insulting description of the efforts by members of the local electorate to register the town square at Willesden as "vexatious". The last time I checked, this country was still a democracy: that's what people do in a democracy. They speak up for their rights. If you find that vexatious perhaps you are in the wrong job - or, possibly even, the wrong country.

H.M. Cricklewood NW2

Martin R said...

Dear Labour Councillor Powney,

I have just remembered that it was your own Party that enacted the Commons Act 2006, so why shouldn't the public make use of it? I suggest that you discuss this with your Labour colleagues both in Brent Council and at Shadow Cabinet level to clarify your policies in relation to your actual constituents. After all the only people who will benefit from this scheme are private developers based in Cowley and Guildford who will have no actual interest in Willesden Green and its future once they have sold all the flats. As a local Councillor you don't represent them, do you?

Martin Redston

Anonymous said...

We want our elected representatives on the Council to protect the assets we have. This was the main thrust of the Open Space application. Yes many of us were concerned about the quality,(too cheap), size (too small), and aspect (too intrusive) of the proposed library building, but we are also concerned at the loss of the Open Space. 'At no cost to the council' is a meaningless phrase when we are giving away that most precious of resources, land. Why did the council not follow guidelines clearly set out in the 50 page National Policy Framework March 2012? I quote.."Planning has tended to exclude people and communities....." P.12 HOUSING
"should reflect local circumstances, based on families with children." Para 57. DESIGN OF BUILT ENVIRONMENT. "Plan positively for public buildings and spaces, for the future. They should respond to local character and history; reflect the identity of local surroundings and materials" P.17 8/para 69 Should promote "mixed-use developments with strong neighbourhood centres, active street frontages ...the Live, Work, Play balance. 8/para 74 Existing open spaces should not be built on unless i) surplus to requirements (it is not) ii) the loss results in equivalent or better provision (it doesn't) iii) the development is for alternative activities which would outweigh the loss of space ( it isn't; it doesn't the space is gone, the new library is inadequate for the community's needs, and the housing does not reflect local need) . I recommend the close reading of this document to all concerned with local planning.
Nicolette Mckenzie KWG

Anonymous said...

We want the elected members of the council to protect our assets. I would direct anyone interested in planning policy to the National Policy Framework March 2012. 7:para 56/57 "Plan positively for public buildings and spaces for the future." 8:para 69 Promote "...strong neighbourhood centres, active street frontages...the Live, Work, Play balance" 8:para 70 "Guard against unnecessary loss of valued facilities and services" 8:para 74 "Existing open spaces should not be built on unless i) surplus to requirements (it isn't) ii) the loss results in equivalent or better provision (it doesn't; the land is lost) iii) the development is for alternative activities which would outweigh the loss of space (it isn't: it doesn't ). The Open Space is gone, therefore the old library is robbed of its setting and 'devalued' according to the Policy Framework. The new library building is too small, does not reflect local styles, is sited awkwardly on the existing open space, and will be managed by the same council who let the current building run down. Please do not insult our intelligence by making this development out to be an asset and our concerns at the loss of the Open Space 'vexatious'. I think the inspector would have discovered that, and I further think that the word may well have been used later in the hearing, by a barrister for either the developer or the council, in a crude attempt to discredit anyone who was trying to protect our assets.
Nicolette McKenzie

Anonymous said...

We want out our elected representatives to protect our assets. The Open Space is an asset. I would refer anyone interested to the National Policy Framework March 2012. It stresses "existing open space should not be built on uness i) surplus to requirements (it isn't) ii) the loss results in equivalent or better provision (it doesn't: the space is gone) iii) the development is for alternative activities which would outweigh the loss of the space (it isn't: it doesn't)" This is a directive for the future which seems to endorse and strengthen many of the reasons we put forward for registering the Space on historical grounds. I believe the word 'vexatious' may have been used at the hearing; by a barrister for either the developers or the council, in an attempt to discredit local people exercising their right to challenge a short-sighted, ill-conceived plan.
Nicolette McKenzie

Anonymous said...

I personally don’t believe the term vexatious is totally out of place in this instance. Local people have the right to protect cherished spaces and it’s healthy for a local community to do so, but applications for town square status should be proactive i.e. protecting spaces before developers get to it, rather than a re-active means to stop developments, which acts as abuse of the system and can cost the tax payer a lot of money and the community possibly years of uncertainty (hence why whilst it is valid and lawful to do so at the moment, re-form to the law will be passed later this year to stop town square applications being put forward when an planning application has already been put in). By all means fight to save important spaces in a community which are being threatened, but this should be done through the planning application process and for the Planning Committee to take into consideration, not through town square applications as means of desperation.

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